Archive for April, 2016

Supreme Court Refuses to Block Texas Voter ID Law, For Now

The state’s controversial voter ID law will remain in place, at least for now. Friday morning the United States Supreme Court decided to temporarily leave the law on the books.

The decision comes after civil right’s groups asked the justices to step in during the ongoing legal battle. Since it became law in 2011, several courts have mulled over whether it’s discriminatory.

The law is the strictest voter ID law currently on the books in any state. In order to vote, you have to present a certain type of photo ID on Election Day.

Critics say it hurts lower income and minority voters from taking part in the process. Proponents maintain it protects the integrity of Texas elections.

The law was passed by the Texas legislature in 2011 and signed by then Governor Rick Perry. Since then it’s had a long and complicated history. After a district court ruled against the state in 2014, the law made its way to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. There a 3-judge panel agreed with the district court saying the law had a discriminatory effect.

Before the district court could offer a remedy, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked for a full panel review in the 5th Circuit.

In the meantime, the law has stayed in effect, prompting civil rights groups to ask the Supreme Court to step in.

After declining to do so Friday, Attorney General Paxton praised the decision and issued the following statement:


“Texas enacted a common-sense law to provide simple protections to the integrity of our elections and the democratic process in our state,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton. “We appreciate the Supreme Court allowing the law to remain in effect at this time and look forward to defending the merits of our case in front of the entire Fifth Circuit next month.”


The Supreme Court is putting pressure on the 5th Circuit to make a decision by July 20th to allow enough time for any changes before the November elections. If they don’t rule by then, the justices could reconsider stepping in.

The full 5th Circuit Appeals Court will hold a new hearing on the law next month.


Speaker Straus Warns Lawmakers of Budget Challenges During Oil Slump

Speaker Joe Straus sent this letter to House budget writers as they got to work this morning:


straus letter 1

straus letter to budget writers 2

Texas Supreme Court Ends Challenge to State’s First Legal Same Sex Marriage

The state’s highest court has tossed out an attempt to undo the union of the first gay couple to legally wed in Texas.

The court-ordered marriage of Austin couple — Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend — came months before same sex weddings were legalized nationwide. A lower court judge ordered the Travis County clerk to issue them a license under special circumstances because Goodfriend had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and her future health was uncertain. Attorney General Paxton challenged the marriage. But today, the Republican-controlled Texas Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s order and dismissed the state’s effort to overturn it. They say the challenge is moot because the US Supreme Court struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage last summer.


Feds File Fraud Charges Against Ken Paxton

Federal securities regulators hit Texas attorney general Ken Paxton with fraud charges Monday. Paxton faces civil charges for allegedly recruiting investors for a high-tech startup without disclosing the company was paying him.

The alleged violations happened before Paxton became attorney general. The SEC claims Paxton raised 840-thousand dollars in investment funds for Servergy and, in return, Servergy gave him 100-thousand shares of stock. Paxton, a Republican, is already under felony criminal indictment in Texas over allegations that he defrauded wealthy investors in the company in 2011.

In a statement this afternoon, Paxton’s attorney said the attorney general “vehemently denies the allegations.”

Here’s attorney Bill Mateja’s full statement:

“Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton understands that, earlier today, the SEC filed a civil lawsuit against him in connection with a company called Servergy, Inc.  While neither Mr. Paxton nor his legal team have reviewed the civil lawsuit yet, we understand that the civil lawsuit revolves around the same allegations charged in the Collin County criminal matter.  Like the criminal matter, Mr. Paxton vehemently denies the allegations in the civil lawsuit and looks forward to not only all of the facts coming out, but also to establishing his innocence in both the civil and criminal matters.  While it isn’t surprising that the SEC filed this identical civil lawsuit, because it happens almost all of the time, it is surprising that the SEC chose to file this civil lawsuit nearly a year after the Collin County Special Prosecutors filed their criminal case, particularly where the civil lawsuit mirrors the criminal case.”


Here’s the full press release from the SEC:

SEC: Company Misled Investors About Energy-Efficient Technology


Washington D.C., April 11, 2016  The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced fraud charges against a Texas-based technology company and its founder accused of boosting stock sales with false claims about a supposedly revolutionary computer server and big-name customers purportedly placing orders to buy it.

Also charged in the SEC’s complaint is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and a former member of the company’s board of directors for allegedly recruiting investors while hiding they were being compensated to promote the company’s stock.

The SEC alleges that Servergy Inc. and William E. Mapp III sold $26 million worth of company stock in private offerings while misleading investors to believe that the Cleantech CTS-1000 server (the company’s sole product) was especially energy-efficient.  They said it could replace “power-hungry” servers found in top data centers and compete directly with top server makers like IBM, Dell, and Hewlett Packard.  However, neither Mapp nor Servergy informed investors that those companies were manufacturing high-performance servers with 64-bit processors while the CTS-1000 had a less powerful 32-bit processor that was being phased out of the industry and could not in reality compete against those companies.

The SEC further alleges that when Servergy was low on operating funds, Mapp enticed prospective investors by falsely claiming well-known companies were ordering the CTS-1000, and he specifically mentioned an order purportedly received from Amazon.  In reality, an Amazon employee had merely contacted Servergy because he wanted to test the product in his free time for personal use.

Servergy has since cut ties with Mapp, who served as CEO.  The company agreed to pay a $200,000 penalty to settle the SEC’s charges.  The litigation continues against Mapp in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

“We allege that Mapp deceived investors into believing that Servergy’s groundbreaking technology was generating lucrative sales to major customers when it was technologically behind its competitors and made no actual sales,” said Shamoil T. Shipchandler, Director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office.

While serving in the Texas House of Representatives, Paxton allegedly reached an agreement with Mapp to promote Servergy to prospective investors in return for shares of Servergy stock.  According to the SEC’s complaint, Paxton raised $840,000 in investor funds for Servergy and received 100,000 shares of stock in return, but never disclosed his commissions to prospective investors while recruiting them.  Similarly, former Servergy director Caleb White allegedly raised more than $1.4 million for Servergy and received $66,000 and 20,000 shares of Servergy stock while never disclosing these commissions to investors.  White has agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by paying $66,000 in disgorgement and returning his shares of Servergy stock to the company.  The SEC’s litigation continues against Paxton.

“People recruiting investors have a legal obligation to disclose any compensation they are receiving to promote a stock, and we allege that Paxton and White concealed the compensation they were receiving for touting Servergy’s product,” Mr. Shipchandler said.

The SEC’s complaint charges Servergy, Mapp, Paxton, and White with violating Sections 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  Servergy, Mapp, and White also allegedly violated Sections 5(a) and (c) of the Securities Act, and Paxton and White allegedly violated Section 17(b) of the Securities Act and Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act.

Servergy and White neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s charges in their settlements.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Samantha S. Martin and Carol J. Hahn and supervised by Jessica B. Magee and David L. Peavler in the Fort Worth office.  The SEC’s litigation will be led by Matthew J. Gulde and Ms. Magee.


Here’s the response from Texas Democrats:

Texas Democratic Party Deputy Executive Director Emmanuel Garcia issued the following statement:

“Enough is enough. How many more investigations, criminal charges, and lawsuits need to be filed before Republican Ken Paxton takes responsibility for his lawlessness and resigns?

“First, we learned Ken Paxton was swindling his investors and fellow Texans. Then, he ran afoul of the Texas Rangers. All along, Paxton sought out white-collar treatment from Texas courts. He is already facing over 99 years in jail for felony fraud. But the lawlessness is not over, today, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a new civil securities fraud lawsuit against the Republican.

“Texas Democrats know that no politician should ever be above the law. We renew our call for Ken Paxton to spare Texas further embarrassment, take responsibility, and step down.”



We will have more on this story tonight at 7 on Capital Tonight.


Rick Perry’s Abuse of Power Case Officially Dismissed

Following a Court of Criminal Appeals decision that all but ended the case, the special prosecutor who secured the grand jury indictment against former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday said he will not pursue an amended indictment. The presiding judge, Bert Richardson, signed a dismissal of the case.

Perry’s legal team continues to say the case should have never happened.

“I told all of you from the beginning it would ultimately be dismissed,” Perry’s lead lawyer, Tony Buzbee, told reporters today. “It was dismissed today because it lacked merit on both facts and the law. I just wish it would have been dismissed sooner,” he said.

Buzbee also said he asked the judge to provide his team with a transcript of the grand jury proceedings. “We feel like Mr. McCrum must have said some things that are probably actionable to that grand jury based on the people we know testified and the facts as we know that and we’re going to explore that. So although this criminal case is over, our investigation into how this came about certainly is not,” Buzbee said.

Meanwhile, special prosecutor Michael McCrum said he is 100 percent confident he handled the case appropriately. He said the law guards the confidentiality of those proceedings for good reason.

“Mr. Buzbee should know that,” McCrum said. “I don’t know, he handles snake bites and car wreck cases.”

McCrum also said he considered keeping the case going by amending the indictment because he believes Perry committed a crime.

But he said he won’t because the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling in the case ‘muddied’ the law.

“Am I sore about the fact that the law now is so muddied that it makes it difficult to prosecute any public official for their acts of threats and their use of power in an inappropriate way? Yeah, I’m sore about that. I’m disappointed. I’m upset,” McCrum said.

The case stems from the former governor’s 2013 threat to veto funding for a unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office unless its head step down following a drunken driving conviction.

She didn’t, and Perry’s attorneys said the former governor was within his rights to follow through on vetoing the funding.

Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint saying Perry went too far. The complaint led to the 2014 indictment of Perry. He was accused of coercion of a public servant and abuse of official capacity.

A lower appeals court tossed out the coercion charge last year. Then in February, the Court of Criminal Appeals threw out the remaining charge.






Daily Digest | April 4

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


The U.S. Supreme Court handed Texas a victory today. It upheld the state’s system of drawing legislative voting districts based on everyone who lives there, not just registered voters. On the show tonight, we’ll bring you reaction from Texas leaders on both sides of the issue, including one of the plaintiffs in the case.


Plus, all eyes are on Wisconsin ahead of that state’s primary Tuesday. For the Republicans running for President, the Badger State could play a huge role in their paths going forward. Our LeAnn Wallace takes a look at what the Cruz campaign strategy involves in order to win the lion’s share of the state’s 42 delegates.


Tune to Capital Tonight on Time Warner Cable News at 7 for these stories and more. We also welcome Charles O’Neal to the show as our guest. He’s the president of the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce. He’ll discuss what his organization is doing to boost black-owned businesses in the state.



Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Texas Districts

Texas was handed a victory Monday morning. The United States Supreme Court voted unanimously to uphold the state’s system of drawing legislative voting districts based on everyone who lives there, not just registered voters. Two rural Texans challenged the state’s method arguing their votes were diluted.

But the high court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument saying representatives serve all residents, “not just those eligible or registered to vote.”

The decision excited Texas Democrats the most. That’s because it likely boosts the voting power of the state’s booming Latino population.

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton became an unlikely ally of Democrats on the issue.

He supports his state’s system for drawing districts and applauded the justices’ ruling.



We’ve compiled a list of state leaders reaction to the decision:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today released the following statement regarding the 8-0 victory in the U.S. Supreme Court in Evenwel v. Abbott:

“We are pleased with the unanimous decision of the Court.  My office is committed to defending the Constitution and ensuring the state legislature, representing the citizens, continues to have the freedom to ensure voting rights consistent with the Constitution.”


Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:

“Today, in a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court reaffirms that every single person in America deserves a voice. Our elected representatives should be responsive to every one’s needs, not just those that can bring them to power. Every person matters.

“This is a victory for our democracy and every Texas family. For decades, the democratic principle of ‘one person, one vote,’ has ensured everyone in America, regardless of who they are or where they live, is entitled to equal representation. Evenwel threatened a returned to darker days when certain people were easily left behind by their government.

“Texas Democrats know that our democracy is stronger when everyone has a seat at the table. To strengthen our communities we should be encouraging more people to join us. We pray that Tea Party Republicans finally drop their efforts to make it harder to vote, silence the voice of voters, and weaken the power of Texas’ diverse communities.”


Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle statement:

“Today’s unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court turned back a direct attack on one-person, one-vote. It is an enormous victory for Democratic and American values.  “It’s no accident that this case originated in Texas. The forces that filed the suit and pursued it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court reflect the dark and dangerous view that power should be concentrated in the hands of a very few. Keep in mind that current Texas leaders adopted and have spent millions of dollars defending discriminatory redistricting and Voter ID laws. Their recent actions have created an environment that encourages and accommodates those who hold basic civil and voting rights in contempt.”

State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, Chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, issued the following statement:

“Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for voting rights, and I am proud that MALC’s work helped the High Court reach this important decision.

“‘One person, one vote’ is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is simple: when we ensure equal representation, we ensure that every single voice matters.

“Eliminating non-voters from the drawing of election lines would have had a devastating effect on Texas and on the Latino community. While we cheer today, voting rights remain under attack in America. It is time for Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act. It is time for Texas to make it easier to vote, not harder.”


ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro said:

“This decision is a victory for the principle of representative democracy. There is a reason that every state has chosen to apportion its state legislative districts based on total population. Government actions affect everyone, not just eligible voters. The argument that states are forbidden from treating everyone equally for redistricting purposes never made any constitutional sense and was properly rejected today by a unanimous Supreme Court.”


Read the full decision here: